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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
AUG
25

Anais Nin and a Writing Update

 

After several thousand more words, I'm officially 70% done with my new manuscript. Since my last update at 60%, I've been writing a lot about my months of gemology studies in New York City. Despite some city stresses, it was such a happy time of life. One of my favorite things I've ever done, and writing about it--everything from the little gemology lab I set up in my apartment to the worksheets on which I used to scribble out my always-imperfect assignments--has made me remember how much I loved it. It's brought me back to those places, to that time, to those hundreds of gemstones that I studied and identified. 

It reminds me of that saying. By that I mean the one on the notebook I was given as a gift. "We write to taste life twice." It's Anais Nin, and it's so accurate. When writing about something true, something that actually happened to us, or should have happened to us, or that we watched happen to someone else, we go back there. We feel a glimmer of how we felt at the time. We craft the words that best describe these glimmers for those who weren't there, for those who wouldn't have felt what we felt in those moments. I highly doubt it would have given any of you a thrill to study a new box of gemstones each day, or to get the fancy pair of diamond tweezers you wanted for Christmas, or to pass a test you've been working toward for years that requires a perfect score. But if I, in my thousands of words, can help you see these glimmers and how they look and feel to me, then we're all richer for having seen a slice of life the way someone else experienced it. So, back to the manuscript.

JUL
08

Because I Also Write Books

It's easy to forget that, especially because there are so many other things to talk about on this blog. Like LeBron. And gemstones. And the fact that I've fallen in love which is totally cutting into my writing time. (Worth it, by the way.) But I do write books. 

I'm currently 60% done with my next manuscript. This will be my fourth book, and 60% feels significant. It feels like we're getting somewhere. And I probably say this with every book (someone should really look into this), but I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite. While the other three each follow a certain theme throughout my entire life thus far, this book is about a single, brief period of my life. It's about a thing I always wanted to do. It's about me doing it, loving/hating it, and ultimately leaving it behind. It's just focused differently...in a way my first three books are not. And I'm also exploring the idea of experimenting with chronology on this one, so you have that to dread look forward to when the time comes.

All good stuff. I like writing so much. I'm grateful it's one of the many aspects of my life. Even if it almost never gets top billing. On this blog or anywhere else. Some things we do simply because we must. Because we are called. Because they are there. Because if we don't, who will ever know that these things happened to us? That we had these feelings? That we dreamed dreams and took risks and failed a lot?

Which is all to say, I'm looking forward to the next 40%.  

MAR
04

To Procreate or not to Procreate?

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I read a book recently that had been written as a series of essays by writers who had each, for one reason or another, decided not to have children. Each author spent his or her essay largely explaining this decision. I find books on particular lifestyle choices interesting (a la Spinster), particularly if they are choices that I have made as well. Not that my reasons are the same as any of this book’s contributing authors. I am choosing not to have children because I don’t want to be a single parent, not because I don’t want children. Were my circumstances different (ie. if I could find the right man), I would welcome the opportunity. But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about.

What struck me while reading these essays was how many of the authors mention an unwillingness to give up their career as a contributing factor—many times a significant one—in their decision not to have children. It might seem an odd thing, since, especially in this day and age, having both a career and a family is very do-able. But keep in mind the authors of these essays are all writers—full-time writers—and that kind of career is an entirely different animal. You’re at home all day, for starters, and that in and of itself—that at home is where you need to be your most productive—can make the idea of children very off-putting. These writers told of how even just the thought of a child pulling at their arm while they sat typing or journaling was enough to 1) make them realize it would simply never be possible to do both, and 2) fill them with acute hypothetical guilt over neglecting this hypothetical child. Point 1 makes me think of something I read in Joni Mitchell’s biography. When she was still quite young, Joni had a baby girl and gave her up for adoption. The decision tore her up, but she said some decades later that had she not made that decision, her career in the music industry would have never happened. It simply wouldn’t have been possible. So I get it. I do. And I am personally quite glad for her decision, as “I could drink a case of you and still be on my feet” is one of my favorite lyrics ever penned.

Point 2 makes me think of what happens every evening and weekend when I sit down to write and my cat jumps up and tries to fight my computer for the spot on my lap. She’ll try and try, me batting her away until she finally realizes the mission is futile. Of course, when I do this, she curls up on the couch and sleeps for the next five hours and is really no worse for wear. So I realize this temporary neglect doesn’t trigger the same type of guilt I would feel if I resented my child and her frequent—no, constant—tendency to impede my writing. (She, my cat, does the same thing when I’m reading a book, constantly walking across and sitting on the pages…it’s equal parts infuriating and adorable.)

I’m not a judgey person. Or maybe I am. But surprisingly not about this topic. Because I think it’s a legitimate choice. And I reject the notion that choosing a childless life is selfish. I do think having children is certainly more selfless by comparison. It’s one of the reasons why, again, were my circumstances different, I’d have a child. Because I see this selfless quality in so many of the people I know who have children, and sacrifice and suffering in the name of love is something I could probably benefit from incorporating more of. But people know themselves. And their limits. Particularly writers, who from my own observations are more likely to 1) have the time to wax pensive over tradeoffs and preferences, 2) have TAKEN the time to wax pensive over tradeoffs and preferences, 3) to seek peace and solitude, and 4) to have experienced some sort of trauma or neglect from their own parents, consequently turning them off of the notion of procreating. Whatever their reasons, let’s respect them. Having said that, I’m going to turn off my computer now. My cat has been patiently waiting for her turn on my lap.

JUN
10

Goodbye to all that

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I've been reading a collection of essays written by female writers who have at some point lived in (and left) New York. It's amazing how conflicted we writer folk can be about this city, and in almost every essay is what I've come to dub an inevitable waffling between how we could never leave new York and the fact that we can't leave fast enough because being here is, at most, draining and shallow, and, at worst, sort of sucky. In these essays there are three camps of people: those who love New York, those who hate New York, and those who--for better or for worse--feel an unnamed sense of belonging, pull, and attraction to being in New York. This final group are those who even after moving away end up moving back; those who even if they choose not to move back still pine for the city every day, wish they were there again, home.

I suppose you could say I belong to this third group of people, although I'm not really sure why. It's not like New York was ever mine. Certain of the essayists make quite clear, in fact, how annoyed they are with these so-called baby New Yorkers who move to the city with big dreams and after a few months of living with a bunch of roommates in a small flat in the East Village start going around claiming the city as their own. But when I say I belong to this third group, it's because my attraction to New York is something I cannot help. It's wired into me. I know this because living here has been hard. I've found many aspects of it much more challenging than I had ever anticipated, yet the thought of leaving tomorrow has me weepy.

To me, New York City equals possibility. On a grand scale, certainly, and the fact that I've been able to complete and fulfill a dream while here certainly boosts the life-making fantasy I've got going in my mind when I think of Manhattan. But I'm talking about possibility on a small scale, too. Because no other city is like this. No other city offers so much in the way of daily activities, eateries, or attractions. Any day could take you in any number of directions and result in any number of outcomes, favorites, and new friends. As an introvert, it's not even as if I was taking full advantage of this, but the point is that it's there for you when you want it. And there is comfort in that. Not to suggest that I'm sad about beginning a new chapter on the other side of the country (translation: I am totally sad), but I know every night will find me wondering what everyone in New York is up to, feeling the way you feel in dreams when you've been left behind, beating off with a stick this annoying sense that a bunch of fun is being had without you. Having now lived in New York, I know it will absolutely be true. To quote the essay that opens the book, "California has taught me this: you can take the girl out of New York, but all that accomplishes is taking the girl out of New York." I guess we'll just have to see.

SEP
01

When a Writer Cleans House

I cleaned house yesterday. For seven hours. A few have expressed their bafflement as to how a house as small as mine could possibly take seven hours to clean, but this was a cleaning the likes of which I have never done in the 5 years I've lived here, at least not all at once. Going through every drawer, cupboard, and closet. Throwing away bags upon bags of crap I don't need, making a pile of stuff to give away, etc. It was quite an undertaking. One that left me exhausted from standing...not to mention lugging heavy bags and boxes up and down the stairs all day. But my house is now so improved, and I'm reveling in the lack of clutter; the improved organization.

Mass organization projects such as these affect me in ways they probably wouldn't if I weren't a writer. On one hand, they cause me to look back. I've been in my house for five years, and as I sorted through the photos, letters, and mementos I've acquired during these years, it was hard not to wax sentimental. A lot of things have gone down, from the most joyful to the most heartbreaking, and it's as if yesterday I relived them all. On the other hand, mass organization projects also cause me to look forward. The jumbo pack of Q-tips I found in the upstairs hall closet (Thank you, Costco) will last me nearly 1000 days, for instance. Almost three years. And I wonder what life will look like then. Will I still be in this house? This city? This job? All I know for sure is I'll be out of Q-tips, but it's a little exciting to think that even as an established adult, there are still unknowns out there; things to figure out, chances to take, trails to blaze--even if we are later to the game than we had always planned on being.

And all this just from cleaning out a closet. No wonder I only do it once every five years.

APR
12

On Opening Acts

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Opening acts usually annoy me. Not only are they not the person I came to see, but they significantly lengthen the overall time of a concert. You want to show up early to get a good seat (or standing place), but then you are left standing there for an hour or two while you wait for the main act.

But I've noticed my attitude toward opening acts has changed, and I blame this almost entirely on the fact that I've got a book out there. I see these largely unknown artists as doing the only thing they can, as pounding the pavement, as working day jobs to support themselves until their craft can pay the bills, as persevering despite crowds that are small, crowds that talk over them, crowds that are (ahem) only interested in the headliner. In many ways, I see them as me. Because no one really knows about me. Or my book. I fight for every sale, do signings that don't always draw a crowd (or anyone), and continue writing even though hardly anyone is listening.

Yes, I have a new respect for opening acts, and the one I saw last weekend particularly struck me. The headliner was Tristan Prettyman, herself refreshingly non-mainstream, and as I've mentioned in previous posts (Lessons from Tristan Prettyman), I see Tristan every chance I get and feel fortunate that she's come to Cleveland three times in less than a year. Tristan was fabulous as usual, and I loved her opening act. A band called Satellite, I'd never heard of them. But there they were, the lead singer pouring so much of himself into each song that you would have thought he was playing in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden. Instead of a 100-person crowd on a small stage in the ghetto of Cleveland. But isn't that what makes a great artist? It certainly demands respect, and, if the quality of the product is good too, my thought is that it also deserves a sale. So I'll be buying an album this weekend. I'd buy Cedar + Gold too, but my oh my, I already have it.

JAN
09

The Nonfiction Writer's Wish

I'm just about 2/3 done with my second book. Which feels like progress. And it is. But I'm finding this last 1/3 to be much harder to write than the first 1/3. And while my first book was chronological, this one is not, so it's more challenging to make sure I'm pulling in everything. Finalizing order is a whole different topic, but I won't worry about that until all the content is written. Or maybe that's my problem. That I don't at this point even know the order of things. Either way, the thing I keep saying to myself is this: I wish I could write fiction. Fiction is the ticket. Fiction is so the ticket. But try as I might, my brain doesn't think that way. Dammit.